Gorilla Harambe
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by Cincinnati Zoo. Reuters/Cincinnati Zoo

A 17-year-old male gorilla, named Harambe, was shot and killed on Saturday (local time) at the Cincinnati Zoo in the US state of Ohio after a four-year-old boy fell into its enclosure, zoo officials said. Officials had to take the decision to shoot the gorilla in the fear that it would harm the child. According to Cincinnati Zoo director Thayne Maynard, the kid crawled through a barrier and fell about 10 feet into the enclosure at around 4:00pm. Right after, Harambe went down and caught hold of the child.

According to Cincinnati Fire Department Chief Marc Monahan, first responders witnessed a gorilla weighing 180 kilograms dragging the screaming boy around the habitat. About 10 minutes later, the zoo’s dangerous animal response team shot and killed the gorilla.

“We just heard a child screaming, so when we went over there, we saw a little boy's face ... [and] we knew he was being dragged by the gorilla,” a witness told local media outlet WLWT.

The gorilla reportedly took the boy to one end of the habitat and when the little boy started screaming again, it dragged him back again. This went on until the officials shot down the beast. There was a lot of security around but they panicked and were simply clearing the area.

Maynard said that the officials decided to kill the gorilla and not tranquilise it as the tranquiliser would have take some time to come into effect. As the gorilla was dragging the boy around, his life was in imminent danger. Hence, they had to shoot it down before the child got killed. However, the child did not suffer any life-threatening injuries. He was taken to the hospital. Maynard said officials in the zoo never faced a situation like this before and he believes that the officials made the right choice.

There were three gorillas inside the moat. Two were taken out of the enclosure but Harambe refused to leave and stayed in the yard.

“We are all devastated that this tragic accident resulted in the death of a critically-endangered gorilla. This is a huge loss for the Zoo family and the gorilla population worldwide,” Maynard stated in a statement, reported NBC News.